Let’s just start by stating the obvious: this tart looks peculiar. There’s pretty much no way around it and, believe me, I have tried to somehow overshadow the fact that, though incredibly delicious, this vegetable tart’s filling also happens to be pink. It’s the color of salmon. Truth be told, when I first sliced into the tart, my thoughts were dominated by flashes of the Grim Reaper, bony finger pointed at a tabletop, responding to the query of a very badly-American-accented Michael Palin in drag: “The salmon mousse.”
So, it’s pink. But it is also phenomenal. When I served it, I found myself defending its rather shocking hue by reassuring everyone that, sure, it looks like something a Disney princess would serve at her birthday party, but it tastes like a dream. Savory roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes, a buttery and flakey crust that is so incredible, it actually tastes like a croissant—surely these virtues can make one look past the color, yes?
As it turned out, everyone else was looking past the color. It was me, and me alone, who was stuck in a permanent state of confusion over the pinkness of my dinner. Even though I was the person who made the tart, which meant that I knew better than anyone else what exactly went into the tart, the superior taste of the thing was just not enough for me. After every silky smooth, tasty bite, I would turn to my husband and say, “You don’t think it matters that it’s so…pink?”
And then he look up from his plate, cheeks stuffed full of tart like a chipmunk hoarding rations for the winter, and say, “Whht? Iss fine. Iss dlissishus. So iss pnk…whhro crrrslt.”
And then he would finish his chewing, swallow his bite, and say, “I am now going to eat another piece.”
So, you can thank my husband, he of the only mildly understandable full-mouth-talking, that this tart recipe is seeing the light of day. And you should thank him. This tart is wonderful. The roasted eggplant provides a rich smoothness that plays very well off of the summery taste of the barely roasted tomatoes, and the handful of fresh herbs thrown in does wonders for upping the savory factor. This tart is totally worth your time and attention, which is good because, a pink tart? Kind of difficult to ignore.
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Tart
Flaky Tart Dough
It should come as no surprise to anyone that this savory tart dough recipe hails from Tartine.
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very cold water
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 5 tablespoons (which is 2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons, or 21 tablespoons total) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
In a small bowl, combine cold water and salt, then stir to dissolve salt. Place salt water in refrigerator or freezer to keep very cold until ready to use.
To make the dough in a food processor, place the flour in the work bowl, then scatter the butter pieces over the top. Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles large crumbs, but there are still large pea-sized chunks of butter scattered throughout. Add the salt water mixture and pulse several times until the dough comes together in a ball, but is not completely smooth. There should still be visible butter chunks.
To make the dough by hand, put the flour in a large mixing bowl, then scatter the buter pieces over the top. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs with several large butter pieces scattered throughout. Drizzle in the salt water mixture, then toss with a fork until the dough starts to come together in a shaggy mass. Gently mix the dough until it comes together in a ball, but is not completely smooth. There should still be visible butter chunks.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 2 equal balls, then shape each ball into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
If not using the dough immediately, it can keep in the refrigerator, well-wrapped, for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 week.
To parbake the dough, roll out a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be about 1/8-inch thick. If dough is sticky, lightly dust with flour to prevent sticking. Roll the dough into a circle roughly 1 ½ inches larger than the pan you will be using.
Transfer the dough to a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, pressingly the dough gently against the sides and bottom of the pan. Trim the dough even with the rim of the pan. Place the shell in the freezer, and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line the frozen shell with parchment paper, then fill with pie weights (or dry beans, or a handful of loose change—no, really). Bake until the surface looks dry and pale, about 20 minutes. Remove the shell from the oven, remove the parchment paper and pie weights, then place shell back in the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the surface just begins to turn golden. If the dough begins to rise up in the middle, gently pierce it with the tip of a sharp knife, taking care not to make a large hole that will drain your upcoming tart filling.
Remove tart shell from oven until needed.
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Filling
1 large eggplant, about 12 ounces
3 plum tomatoes (I used San Marzanos, but Romas would also work well), cored but otherwise kept whole
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh basil and Italian parsley (roughly 1 small handful of each fresh, whole herb)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce the skin of the eggplant in several places. Place eggplant on a baking sheet, and bake until eggplant is completely soft and beginning to emit its juices, about 30 to 40 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Turn the oven up to broil. On a heavy baking sheet, broil the tomatoes, turning often, until the skin is charred and split, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven’s broiler. Remove tomatoes from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
(Both the eggplant and tomatoes can be roasted and broiled ahead of time and then set aside in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
When eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant and add it to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add cooled tomatoes, skin and all. Blend eggplant and tomatoes until smooth (if you are using a blender for this, be sure to keep the lid of the blender loose, as blending hot liquids with a tight blender lid may cause the lid to blow off in a rather spectacular fashion). Add the eggs and blend or pulse until incorporated. Add Parmesan cheese, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper, then blend or pulse very briefly until just combined.
Pour eggplant mixture into parbaked tart shell. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the middle of the tart has set and a knife gently inserted into the middle of the tart comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before serving.